Corporate Brainwashing and Thought Control


taking the risk

This is the first in a series of posts about “engineering consent,” a form of brainwashing and thought control perfected in the 20th century. Its purpose is to allow the elites who control western democracies to maintain political power without resorting to brute force.

Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty

By Alex Carey (1995 University of New South Wales Press)

Book Review

Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty is a collection of essays written by Australian psychologist Alex Carey prior to his death in 1988. The essays were posthumously edited and assembled into a book by Andrew Lohey. Carey’s book details the 100 year history of the deliberate manipulation of popular consciousness by the corporate elite.

According to Carey, the main purpose of corporate social engineering is to persuade the voting public to serve the interests of the privileged class, rather than their own working class needs. This type of propaganda relies heavily on emotionally-laden symbols and a black and white view of society in which people and issues are either good or evil. Owing to virtually unlimited corporate financing, it’s spectacularly effective. Conservative regimes that enacted reactionary social policy (in the US) between 1919-1929, 1946-1956, and 1976-2014 didn’t just happen – they were deliberately engineered by the business lobby and corporate propagandists.

Women and Blacks Win Vote

In the view of the US business elite, a dedicated program of social engineering became essential at the beginning of the 20th century when women and northern blacks acquired the right to vote. In 1880, only 10-15% of the US population was eligible to vote. By 1920, this percentage had increased to 40-50%. The corporate elite couldn’t take the risk that this large crop of new voters would elect candidates keen on regulating corporate activities that posed a threat to public health and welfare.

Edward Bernays, known as the father of public relations, played an instrumental role in advancing the art and science of corporate propaganda. During World War I, he assisted Woodrow Wilson, who ran as an antiwar president, in convincing a fiercely antiwar and isolationist American public to support US intervention in the war between Britain and Germany.

Peacetime Propaganda

After World War I, Bernays worked for the National Association of Manufacturers and other corporate groups with a primary agenda of turning public opinion against unions, immigrants and the corporate regulation enacted by President Teddy Roosevelt between 1901 and 1912.

By combining a vast media campaign with concerted employee indoctrination, Bernays created a wave of anti-union and anti-immigrant hysteria. By convincing Americans that corporate regulation was akin to Bolshevism. In this way, he successfully ushered in the first (1919-1921) of three periods of corporate rule. While post-war Europe enjoyed a wave of radical liberalism resulting in the rise of democratic socialism, the US was caught in the grips of a reactionary agenda that would set the stage for the repressive Red Scare and Palmer Raids (in which politically active immigrants were rounded up and deported).

Labor Paralysis, Korea and Vietnam

The other two periods in which a corporate agenda dominated US domestic and foreign policy occurred between 1946-1950 and 1976-80. Between 1929 and 1946, the Great Depression and World War II dramatically curtailed the effectiveness of corporate propaganda. In the late forties, corporate interest groups roared back with a vengeance. The ideological agenda they broadcast on radio and in print media equated free enterprise with freedom and democracy, patriotism with social harmony and the New Deal with creeping socialism. Liberals who supported corporate regulation were portrayed as communist sympathizers. During this period, the Chamber of Commerce launched the first major publicity campaign warning that communists had infiltrated government, universities and other major institutions.

Thanks to these propaganda efforts, in Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1928. In 1947 they enacted the Taft Hartley Act (1947), virtually paralyzing American unions. By blanketing the media with their reactionary agenda, pro-corporate ideologues also laid the ground work for the second Red Scare, aka the McCarthy Era from 1950-1956.

Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Unamerican Activities had an even more destructive effect on foreign policy than it did on civil liberties. In addition to pressuring Truman to pursue an unwinnable war in Korea, McCarthy also forced Eisenhower to reverse US policy on Vietnam and China. Under Truman, the US State Department had opposed the French return to Vietnam (i.e. they supported Vietnamese independence). They had also sought to mediate (in 1945) between Mao Tsai Tung and Chiang Kai Shek in the Chinese civil war.

After McCarthy succeeded in stripping the State Department of more than 500 personnel with Asian expertise, the ultraconservative, CIA-linked John Foster Dulles succeeded in throwing US support behind the incompetent and corrupt Chiang Kai Shek and transforming French opposition to Vietnamese independence into a battle to prevent world Communist domination.

The Rise of Pro-Corporate Neocons

The anti-Vietnam War, Nixon’s resignation and public anger over against CIA domestic spying led to a strong anti-business backlash during the late sixties and early seventies. Corporate ideologues fought back with the launch of “treetop” propaganda efforts. As opposed to grassroots media-based propaganda, treetop propaganda focuses on recruiting rich conservatives to fund conservative think tanks to promote conservative “economic education” and lobby Congress to defeat consumer protection and labor rights legislation.

The American Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) (neoconservative think tank founded in 1970), the Heritage Foundation (founded in 1973) and would be instrumental in promoting “economic” ideological beliefs that full employment and clean air and water initiatives are detrimental to the economy because they hurt business. These think tanks also hammered Congress and universities with the notion that the US would collapse under a socialist dictatorship unless corporate regulations were rolled back.

Their success in bombarding all sectors of society with these reactionary ideas would pave the way for Ronald Reagan’s election and the rollback of corporate regulation and social safety net programs that occurred during his administration.

During the early 1970s, these conservative think tanks began exporting these reactionary belief systems to British and Australian corporate interest groups. In Britain, American-inspired treetop and grassroots pro-corporate propaganda would lead to Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979.


Below the 1993 documentary based on Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent. The title is based on a term coined by Bernays: “engineering consent.” Carey had studied with Chomsky at MIT.

Originally posted at Veterans Today

13 thoughts on “Corporate Brainwashing and Thought Control

  1. Chomsky has done an excellent job of educating us how corporate brainwashing worse. However I have real problems with his views on the JFK assassination – he believes in the official conspiracy theory that Oswald was the the sole killer.


  2. thanks for the great post. i reblogged to Occupy America. I tried to send a thoughtful reply my phone froze several times and lost the moment. I will hit the pc at home. Maybe the NSA is disrupting my activity. Hahah.


  3. Gee universal war profiteering and mass usury sounds like the protocols of the elders of the new world empire to me. Depose the tyranny- restore democracy !


  4. Chomsky clearly has his own “fixed” beliefs and agenda as evident in his 911 and JFK comments that completely supports the official conspiracy theories.
    However, over the years he has done much to sharpen the public awareness of how the institutions are “Manufacturing Consent”, controlling the debate, funding the wars, and social engineering society; or as Hillary Clinton testified before Congress in losing the “cultural programming” and propaganda battle with the internet’s alternative media, Al Jazeera, and Russian TV seen as threats…

    The rise of the National Security State and the control of the international monetary system are at war with the Free People on Earth…

    Remember what Frederick Douglass said:
    “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave”

    May we all continue to share and AMPLIFY the global dialogue, information and knowledge.


      • Another major institutional control mechanism change emerging within the globalists’ planning is the BRICS development fund as the solution to the international monetary problems.

        It is a staged illusion of opposition.

        There maybe Russian/Chinese/BRICS elites who genuinely believe they are acting against the West, but are in reality simply playing a part in a Hegelian synthesis to bring about globalism.
        The globalist agenda frames the debate and gives two false choices:
        regardless which fist you choose (West or East; Left or Right; Conservative or Liberal…) that fist will punch you in the nose and command you to obey.

        The BRICS are not proposing abolishing fractional reserve banking nor abolishing central banks.
        In fact they joined at the hip-pocket:
        The World Bank has offered its full support to the BRICS Development Bank and Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov referred to the BRICS Bank as a “mini-IMF”.

        Washington – The World Bank has said it was ready to support the new development bank being established by the BRICS emerging economic powers, predicting it will be an “invaluable partner”.

        The BIS is the centralized organization which sets and enforces all central banks policies for all central banks in the world. The governor for the People’s Bank of China is on the executive board of the BIS and has openly called for the implementation of a multilateral financial system structured around a supra-sovereign SDR.

        All readers and all the people on Earth should be aware of the tricks and deceptions of the institutions to control the world.
        The Billionaire, Hugo Salinas Price said:
        “There is not one single national economy in the world today whose people are free”.

        “Our world is run – and has been run for some time now – by a relatively very small group of individuals who have it in their power to manage, as they think, the economies of nations.”


  5. I agree that the BRICS countries aren’t the answer – that none of these countries offers true freedom. I personally believe that doing away with the state and establishing regional entities run by direct democracy is the only answer. However with Wall Street busily rendering the planet uninhabitable, I think it’s useful for the BRICS nations (particularly Russia) to challenge the Washington consensus, as they have been doing. What the Obama administration is doing in Ukraine and Palestine is so totally barbaric, I think it’s important for it to be openly challenged for a change. If nothing else, it gives us activists some breathing space.


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